Friday, December 25, 2015

Dream Cities

A good argument may be made for the actual, often unrecognized intent of most bloggers being memoir.  You've thought as much of yourself, most often when whim and nostalgia take you back to the Santa Monica and Los Angeles of your infancy, youth, and formative years.  This notion gains weight when considering the fact of you teaching a class on memoir writing, watching the enrollment numbers grow as you began to conflate memoir-writing techniques with dramatic writing.


You were, in fact, writing a memoir somewhere in the final year of middle school, based on a throughline of you being taken from a remarkable and beloved elementary school in Los Angeles to a dreary succession of schools in the east, a more encouraging school in New England, and awful schools, although with fine teachers, in the South.  Of course the you of then had already formed the notion of a memoir as something written by the kind of older person it was never your intention to become.

Through your experience with other writers, individuals in earnest pursuit of becoming writers themselves, and your own idiosyncratic pursuit of what you'd come to think of as "The Writing Life," you've arrived at a belief wherein a writer does not write to recall events, a writer writes to create them.  In that process, the writer has nearly limitless access to experience, demographics, fantasy, and dreams.

One of your recurring dreams has been of you in a city, which you're able to see from a number of perspectives, including the hover-board experience of being off the ground, at times even well above, looking down.  For a time, you were certain the city in your dreams was Mexico City, but when you went there, it was not.  Later, you suspected it might be Guadalajara, but Guadalajara was nothing like your dream city.  

Although your dream city may well have been Los Angeles, you soon were able to reckon this dream was not your version of "The Purloined Letter," with the city before you being the city of your dreams.  This left only one other possibility.  The city you saw in your dreams must have been London, beckoning to you all this time.

You were scarcely ten minutes on the train from Heathrow Airport to the Paddington Station when you realized you had not, all these years, been dreaming of London.  At one point, when you were visiting New York with a semblance of regularity, you happened to look up during a cab ride from JFK to downtown Manhattan, thinking, Could the dream city have all along been New York?  But your inner No was convincing.  Dreams of this city were a code you would either decipher or not.  The last time you had the dream, you began to wonder if, in some delicious irony of which the Human Condition is a symbol, you would learn the answer on your death bed, thus unable to blog about it, write about it, or in any way except for that single moment of understanding, process it.

A good many writers write to explain things to themselves.  You are no exception.  Someone who has read an occasional blog essay of yours, once asked you if you didn't think you were a bit harsh on yourself at times.  Explanations and definitions , when you consider their essential natures, are not easy.  They seem straightforward because the judgment, defenses, equivocations have been leached from them.

Your definitions are intended tools, which means they must have a useful purpose in causing the chore of understanding to progress unhindered.  Tools fascinate you, the fascination growing when you are able to see an immediate cause and effect from using the tool.  There is great mystery and curiosity inherent in some tools.  What is/was its purpose?  What can the tool help you do that you would have been hours, perhaps years working on without?

There is a certain wistful magical thinking in this approach.  For years, you hunted down the one book or story you hoped would open the gates of understanding for you, wherein you could see yourself clearly, could understand for all time what a story.  Sometimes, when learning seems to arrive late, writing helps.  From such writing, you learn; there is never a book or story that will open the doors to you except the book or story you are working on at the moment.

There is never so plausible a character or a you as the character or you placed into an event, preferably of your own contrivance.  When those are done and down, your options are clear:  Start again.

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